USA Field Hockey NEWS Believe in Brynn

Believe in Brynn

Sept. 15, 2017, 3:43 p.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Kathleen Harte Simone, Philafieldhockey Founder & Editor

Believe in Brynn. University of Pennsylvania’s field hockey team and Head Coach Colleen Fink do. The Quakers  – championed by Fink’s support of Brynn Connor  – are rallying around the young fighter in her battle with Rett Syndrome. At last week’s home game versus Villanova, Brynn accompanied the squad onto the field, clad in purple (the color of Rett support) and served as honorary team captain.

But the Quakers’ support of Brynn didn’t begin – and doesn’t stop – there. Fired by Fink, who knew both of Bryn’s parents as fellow St. Joseph’s University students, the team has embraced Brynn, produced a video in support and posted numerous calls to action on social media, inspiring others to link to @BelieveinBrynn and support the fight for a cure.

Rett Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects the way the brain matures, causing a progressive inability to use muscles for eye and body movements and speech. It occurs almost exclusively in girls. The Rett community and scientists alike are hopeful about finding a cure, proffering that it has a very good chance of being one of the first neurological disorders to be reversed.

Brynn’s mom, Kristen is moved by Fink’s action to help. “Coach Fink reached out to me and said I would love to help," commented Kristen. "I think naturally people try to help in ways that they know how. And obviously, Colleen is a fabulous field hockey coach and wanted to get her team involved, so she asked us if we could be a part of her team, and Bryn could be an honorary member.”

“Brynn is an incredible fighter with the strongest spirit,” said Fink. “Her eyes are full of kindness and happiness. Meeting her has definitely given myself and my team perspective into Rett Syndrome, a disease that I had never even heard of before learning through Shawn and Kristen Connor, my old college friends. I wanted to draw close attention to Rett because it is something that impacted friends of mine, because Rett only targets young women, and to help my athletes realize how fortunate they are to be given the opportunity to play a sport at a highly competitive level.  I want them to feel grateful for this opportunity every day.”

Fink’s players have definitely been impacted; they’ve been empowered by Fink’s message to fight hard, to never give up and to be leaders on and off the field who work for change.

Penn senior Gina Guccione shared how the team is not only helping Brynn, but how Brynn is helping Penn’s team.

“I think it’s been a pretty big source of motivation for us,” said Guccione. “I mean, we see Brynn’s family and we see how much they are fighting for her and for Rett Syndrome. To be able to look at them and then translate that to the field, it gives us a good source of motivation for us playing our games and just trying to fight as hard as we can and never give up.”

Fink and the Penn field hockey team will continue to embrace Brynn and her family and to help spread the word.

“Honestly, we want just want to help bring more awareness to Rett Syndrome to help fund research and bring to the public’s attention that this does exist," said senior caption Alexa Hoover. "And so, whether it’s bringing Brynn to the field, to the games or taking pictures with her and making her part of the team, we just want to do anything we can to make Brynn feel welcome and help bring awareness to Rett Syndrome."

“We also talk a lot in our program about women supporting other women, and honestly, I felt I was called to not only help Brynn but also to support Kristen,” said Fink. “Both her and Shawn are so brave and courageous but I am sure there are times of darkness, doubt and regret. I want them to know that I am here for them even in those moments. Brynn and the Connors will always be on my team. I will always have their back. I want my players to always empower other women, support them, lift them up and not be judgmental or critical. They see Brynn as a beautiful, smart and happy little girl… they see her for who she really is. That is how I want them to see each other…to see the beauty in others and in their teammates.”

Click here to view Penn’s Believe in Brynn video (Locate the video on Facebook page.)

Click here for the Rett Syndrome website to learn more and donate.

Photos from game honoring @BelieveinBrynn show Brynn and captain, Alexa Hoover
Photo credit: Don Felice/Penn Athletics